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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Oct 11, 2019
Yet again, an unexpected and unsettling news story snatched top billing from the Amazon Synod in the week’s Catholic World News coverage. Last week it was the police raid on the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. This week it was the stunning claim, by an influential Italian journalist, that “Pope Francis conceives of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth: a man, not an incarnate god.”
Eugenio Scalfari, the founder and editorial analyst of La Repubblica, has dropped this sort of bombshell in the past. On the basis of exclusive interviews with the Pontiff, he has reported that the Pope does not believe in the existence of hell, and that he thinks Communists are true Christians. Each time these stories have appeared, Vatican spokesmen have said—quite accurately—that Scalfari’s accounts of what the Pope said cannot be considered reliable, since he does not record their conversations or even take notes.
But this time Scalfari was not merely claiming that the Pope had a controversial opinion; he was reporting that Bishop of Rome had denied one of the most fundamental tenets of the faith: the divinity of Jesus Christ! Moreover, the cagey Italian commentator was releasing this story at a time when it was likely to have maximum impact: as the Amazon Synod was opening, and Catholics were already energetically debating proposed changes in Church teaching and discipline.
After issuing the now-familiar caution about Scalfari’s questionable accuracy, the Vatican recognized that this story called for a stronger denial, and issued a a second, unmistakably clear statement that “the Holy Father never said what Scalfari wrote.”
Still we are left with a question. What did the Pope say, that left Scalfari with the impression that the Pontiff was departing from Catholic doctrine—or perhaps we should say, gave Scalfari the opening to create that impression? ….